Tuesday, June 18, 2024

12 European adventure challenges you need this year

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If taking a new route on a run is no longer doing it for you, then competing in a 200-mile race over hilly terrain or clinging onto rocks hanging over the sea might be just the thing to bring adventure back into your life.

To aid your curiosity we’ve come up with some of the most adventurous events on the continent.

El Hierro’s wildly rugged landscape provides an exotic backdrop

© Golden Trail Series

Where: El Hierro, Canary Islands, Spain

El Hierro may be the smallest of the Canary Islands, but the fact it translates as ‘The Iron’ should be enough to alert you that any race isn’t going to be kind on the old legs. Thanks to steep terrain, running around the whole island is impossible, condemning competitors to do a little walking and scrambling (some of the paths are so tight it is pretty much single file for periods). It’s certainly tough on the way up, yet with awe-inspiring views, the last few miles downhill will allow you to soak up the scenery before finishing to a smattering of applause.

No doubt music to the ears of nineties r’n’b collective TLC, there are 170 waterfalls in the Norwegian town of Rjukan. Better yet, they freeze in winter to provide the perfect environment for ice climbing and, specifically, this festival, which not only puts on classes taught by climbing pros but gives you a chance to try it yourself. If you’re looking to step out of your comfort zone this year, you’ll need some crampons…

If sledding 270km across arctic terrain sounds like your thing…

© Lapland Husky Trail

Got a few huskies spare to take across Lapland? No? Do not worry, you can borrow some for this challenge. Over six days, participants must sled 270km from Norway into Sweden over rugged, icy terrain and unpalatable temperatures, erecting tents and sleeping around roaring fires. Handily, the finish line is right on the doorstep of the world famous Ice Hotel, an ideal spot for you and your newfound furry friends to have a well-earned rest. You’ll find few more life-affirming experiences than this.

4. Red Bull Neptune Steps

Winning Red Bull Neptune Steps takes both brawn and bravery

© Red Bull Content Pool; Ian Macnicol

Where: Maryhill Locks, Glasgow

Though Glasgow’s Maryhill Locks is unlikely to be warm in late March (the water temperature reached as low as 3 degrees last year), it’s also one of the most unique sporting experiences you’ll ever have. After a brisk 400m swim entrants must hoist themselves up seven separate canal locks using a mixture of ropes and ladders to lead to success. It’s certainly a competitive event, starting with a series of heats, before the semi-finals and final – if you’re steely enough to make it, that is.

5. Paganello Ultimate Frisbee

Grab some friends and sign a team up for this year’s event

© Paganello

Welcoming over 1000 players to the sandy Italian coast of Rimini, this action-packed event sees teams chucking a frisbee around with the unnerving accuracy a ninja would a throwing star in their respective bids to become crowned Ultimate Frisbee champions. Round up your mates and sign up a team of your own.

Dragon’s Back Race

© Berghaus

Where: Conwy Castle to Carreg Cennen Castle, Wales

Five days, 200 miles, 8.5 miles of ascent. If you’re still reading this, you’ve got more gumption than most. The course is seen as the toughest mountain run by many, taking you from Conwy Castle in the north of Wales to Carreg Cennen Castle in the south of the country. Needless to say, during a gruelling week clambering over rock as you charge towards the summit of Snowden, sightseeing (while nice) will not be a priority.

Better sharpen those elbows…

© Steve Ashworth

Where: Lake District, England

Of the 16 lakes that make up the Lake District in north West England, Windermere is the largest and most breathtaking of all. Once June comes around, and the lanes are opened for the biggest open water swimming event country, it’ll be snatching your breath for a different reason. For those who don’t fancy the full 10km, distances available start from as short as 250m, in case you want to dip a toe in.

8. Chateau de Chantilly Triathlon

The palatial setting makes for a heck of a backdrop

© Chantilly Castle Series;Flickr

Where: Chantilly, Northern France

Make no mistake, this is the cream of crop when it comes to triathlons. Held in the palatial setting of Château de Chantilly, just 40 miles north of Paris, the swimming taking place in the waterways of the garden, the cycling goes through a forest, while the running route traverses woodland, making it a picturesque adventure. There are choices when it comes to distance, so those of all capabilities are welcome.

The SUP11 City Tour winds its way through 17 historic cities

© SUP11 City Tour

Where: Friesland, The Netherlands

When: 8-12 September, 2021

This gruelling SUP event sees athletes paddling 136 miles in five days across narrow, twisting waterways of Friesland, the northern province of Holland. Fortunately, you can also sign up for solo day spots or even compete as a team if you require some encouragement. Run for over a decade, the City Tour is the brainchild of Dutch professional windsurfer Anne-Marie Reichman, who now resides in California, but returns to her home region for this now landmark event.

Hard on the legs, easy on the eyes

© Flickr; Roberto Roux

Where: Aosta Valley, Italy

Given it’s the climbing equivalent of summiting Mount Everest three times over, this crossing of an entire Italian region would test even the fittest of fitness bods. Participants face the challenge of 205 miles of mountain passes, alpine lakes and national parks, which might be why 60% of those who took part last year did not complete the endurance trail, and those who did needed over 100 hours to complete it.

No sleep until Valhalla

© Iron Viking

Where: Netherlands, Germany, Belgium, Denmark

When: Various dates throughout the year

With this one there’s plenty of choice when it comes to where to get your adventure kicks, as events take place across four different countries starting in March and running up to the end of September. From Amsterdam to Osnabruck, the options allow you to make the most of a potential trip abroad by clambering over walls, dragging yourself through mud and generally looking a bit mad.

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